Cooking Skills for the Busy Athlete

At Alberta Sport Development Center (ASDC), we help emerging athletes reach the next level of competition. Nutrition is a key element as part of an athletes training and competition plan. My role as the ASDC Dietitian is to support athletes to meet their nutrition goals. This includes educating our young athletes, parents, and coaches about sports nutrition and how nutrition can improve their athletic performance. But it also includes developing food skills such as menu planning, reading food labels, grocery shopping and learning how to cook. These practical skills are important for young athletes to support their training but also a life skill for as they get older.

Young athletes often struggle with good nutrition practices as they face many challenges with the type of schedules they maintain. Our athletes often have busy training schedules and will be up early before school to train or will train after school and into the evening. This can make it difficult to eat regular meals at home and leaves little time for meal preparation for in between school and events. Athletes often travel away from home for competitions and may have reduced access to good food choices on the road or at the venues where they compete. So part of our goal at ASDC is to work with athletes to provide practical strategies and develop food skills to help them build on good nutrition practices that they can take with them into their adult years.

The cooking sessions I do with the athletes in our athlete enhancement program is always a favorite. We focus on some basic meal planning and the athletes learn how to make some quick snacks and meals that they can eat at home or on the go. They always enjoy making snacks such as cereal trail mix, yogurt parfaits, and smoothies. They also learn that they can make their own quick meals such as pasta salads and skillets that can be packed up to eat on the go or to serve to their parents as a thank you for driving them around everywhere! Not everything turns out perfect but learning from their mistakes is part of skill development (like reading the recipe closely when it says one quarter of a teaspoon of chili peppers and not one quarter cup)! Cooking skills such as reading a recipe, washing dishes, cutting and sautéing vegetables, measuring liquids and dry ingredients and browning meats are just a few of the skills we focus on.

We will also tour a grocery store to practice other food skills such as how to read food labels, grocery shop and budget for meals. Through hands on discussion and some competitive activities (they are athletes after all) athletes build their confidence and knowledge about making informed healthy food choices. It is a lot of fun and they learn practical food skills that they will rely on as they get older as well. To learn more about our Athlete Enhancement Program with ASDC check out our website at www.mhc.ab.ca/Services/HealthandWellness/ASDC

Kimberlee Brooks, RD, MSc, is a sport dietitian with the Alberta Sport Development Centre and can be reached at asdc@m hc.ab.ca

Science-Based Training

I live in a world of science; I am constantly surrounded by scientific literature and conversation. To be honest with you… I absolutely love it!

Not only am I the coordinator of the Alberta Sport Development Centre at Medicine Hat College, I am also a Science & Health faculty member at Medicine Hat College, and because I am completely crazy, I am also pursuing a PhD at the University of Victoria. So it would make sense that I would expect to see science based approaches when it comes to the areas of athlete development.

The Alberta Sport Development Centre at Medicine Hat College has some of the most qualified, scientifically inclined staff in the business. Everyone who is staffed by our centre has a scientific approach to their craft.

This is not the case in all fields of athletic development! Many “qualified” fitness professionals are not using a scientific approach when it comes to training athletes. I actually was at one point in time employed as a NCAA division I university assistant strength & conditioning coach, and you would not believe some of the practices that occur in athlete development at that level. The head strength and conditioning coach at this particular institution had no other credential other than that he played in the National Football League. I was told by this particular individual to not question how they ran their training sessions but to simply “be there” and yell as much as I could. When training the football team, we would all congregate in a room outside of the weight room and jump and yell at the top of our lungs. Once we were adequately “pumped up,” we would sprint into the weight room and orchestrate 1 hour of pure chaos. Trust me, there was no science or forethought into these training sessions. The reality is that we live in a athlete development world where the loudest and most adequate sales personnel are running the industry.

The consequences of this reality is that athletes are getting overtrained and injured. Even more unfortunate is that once these athletes get injured and are labelled “not tough enough,” they are tossed to the wayside and replaced with another individual who will have a likely chance of suffering the same fate.

At Alberta Sport Development Centre at Medicine Hat College we are doing our best to change the dynamics of the industry. We have two very qualified, scientifically based strength & conditioning coach’s who approach athletic development very methodically. As the coordinator, I am very confident that when I send our strength & conditioning coaches to any athlete or team that the athletes will stay healthy and get nothing but the best.

Cory Coehoorn is the coordinator of the Alberta Sport Development Centre at Medicine Hat College. He would love to chat with you and answer any questions that you may have regarding their programs and services. He can be reached via email at ccoehoorn@mhc.ab.ca or via phone at 403-504-3547.

Injury Proofing Young Athletes

One of the primary functions of the Strength and Conditioning coach is to build an armour on our trainees. By identifying, improving, and sometimes eliminating faulty movements that predispose athletes to injury we can have a lifelong impact on their athleticism and overall health.

Sport has inherent risks, we will never eliminate injury altogether just ask the guy who has broken his scaphoid, collarbone, 2 ribs, strained both achilles, MCL, LCL, torn an ACL, and partially torn his rotator cuff all in the pursuit of sport. But many of the common postural and movement faults of modern life amplify the risk for athletes who demand a lot of their bodies.

For example: The hunched shoulders and head forward mechanics of the cell phone age limits nerve supply and blood flow to and from the brain, inter-vertebral discs get squashed, nerves get impinged, lung capacity is decreased, and the rotator cuff tries to perform miracles from a weak imbalanced shoulder position.

Why put yourself in harms way if you can easily avoid it? Please help young athletes understand that by simply being tall through their head, neck, and shoulders in life and most definitely in training they avoid the myriad of injuries, imbalances and weakness described above.

It is truly frustrating how many times I have seen this simple fix be ignored in fact scoffed at until the pinched nerve or torn rotator cuff sidelines athletes, sometimes permanently.

Harry Hunchback: “How do I rehab this wing Ed, nationals are in 2 weeks?”

“Well Harry do you remember when you argued that sometimes you are hunched in your sport so you should lift weights that way too? That you feel silly walking around all upright? You must understand that the best rehab is to never get the injury in the first place, as it can take up to a year for tissue to fully remodel?…” I am not making this up, I have had 3 conversations just like this in the last couple years. One athlete never made it to Nationals and the other 2 did not perform to expectations and still struggle with issues related directly to their head, neck, and shoulder posture. Be tall and proud like Ed I always say.

 

Another relatively correctable movement habit that predisposes athletes to injury is walking with the toes pointing out to the side. Maybe you sprained your ankle or toe and turning the foot out takes away the pain. Maybe people you model movements after have their toes pointing out as well. Whatever the reason this foot position short circuits the natural ‘toe, foot, ankle, knee, hip’ shock absorption and force production system. It makes the hip flexors the prime mover of the whole leg, places strain on the inside of the knee, puts the ACL at risk, flattens the arch of the foot and causes abnormal bone growth on the big toe joint (bunions). Please ensure both feet are pointing the direction you’re heading, at the most allow a 10 degree out-turn. This is true in training as well; performing your squats, lunges, and other lower body moves with toes out amplifies the restrictions noted above and builds strength on that dysfunction. Don’t do it.

Laying it all on the line on the field of sport is an honourable pursuit but knowledge is power in terms of injury prevention, perhaps you won’t have to get carried off that field!

 

Ed Stiles BPE, Certified Exercise Physiologist is a member of the Alberta Sport Development Centre’s Performance Enhancement Team and is the Fitness Coordinator at the Family Leisure Centre he can be reached via e-mail at asdc@mhc.ab.ca, or at ed1sti@medicinehat.ca

Keep Moving Efficiently

By Dustan Lang

Often times I am approached by athletes asking how they can improve their performance. They want to know how they can get faster, stronger, more flexible, or have better balance. My answer is always the same: improve the efficiency of your movement. Athletes that move efficiently are those that are able to plan and sequence their movements in a fluid and coordinated manner. The correct muscles and motor patterns are used rather than compensatory movements that lead to injury.

How does moving more efficiently improve speed, strength, flexibility and balance? Efficient movement will lengthen the soft tissue around the muscles, which improves flexibility. The muscles are also lengthened so that they are able to generate maximum power and strength. When the joints are able to move through their full range of motion, the nerves in the body are better able to help improve balance and stability. As you can see, an athlete that is able to move efficiently will not only perform better, but will also be much healthier and less prone to injury.

In order to improve the efficiency of your movement, you need to work on movement exercises that are specific to your sport. For example, the movement exercises used by a squash player will look very different than those used by a hockey player. In fact, exercises for the different positions in the same sport will look different, because they are required to move differently during the sport. The exercises performed by the hockey forward would look different than those completed by the defenceman. The exercises will mimic the exact demands required for that sport and position. If performed consistently, the body will become more efficient and comfortable, which will transition into improved performance during sport.

During training, warm up, or rehabilitation, athletes should always question whether the exercises will help them return to or excel at their sport. Ask yourself: do I perform any of these movements while I am playing? If the answer is no, then the exercises are likely not the right ones for you. Work together with a professional to get sports specific movement exercises that will improve your efficiency and decrease your risk of injury. Don’t just keep moving, keep moving efficiently.

 

From Coach to Competitor

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I always considered myself an athlete while growing up. I played AA hockey, basketball, racquet sports, and would play any other sport if asked. After high school, I stopped competing and spent a few years coaching hockey while I went to university. As I began a career in emergency services I got away from competing and coaching. It wasn’t until I went back to school for Excercise Science that I got back into coaching and it is an absolute passion of mine.

The best of both worlds, firefighting and athletics, had an opportunity to collide this August at the World Police Fire Games, in Los Angeles. The World Police Fire Games are the second largest international sporting event in the world, behind the Olympics. Over 8000 athletes from 65+ countries competed in 40+ sports. When registration opened and the sports were announced, I knew I wanted to attend and compete in CrossFit. I have been CrossFitting on and off for 3 years, primarily as a means to stay in shape and be strong for my job as a firefighter. I decided to get serious in January to train for the games and began following online programming and worked with fantastic training partners.

As the Games got closer I realized that I haven’t competed in anything for a really long time. In my 3 years of CrossFit, I have only attended 1 competition and that was with a partner. I have never excelled in individual sports because I struggle with mental preparation skills and allow myself to feel the pressures of competition. When I realized that I was starting to worry about the event, I had to take a moment and check myself. I asked myself what kind of coach would I be if I couldn’t take the advice I give my athletes on a regular basis?

With 2 months until the Games I decided to take better control of my training and coach myself how I would any athlete. First thing I did was dial in my nutrition and made sure I was fuelling myself appropriately for my training. By no means did I diet, but I got rid of things that made me feel sick and began listening to my body better. This listening to my body flowed over to training days as well. I had been dealing with some health issues and I realized the best thing I could do was train to how I felt each day instead of pushing myself on days I knew I couldn’t handle it. These things lead to me feeling significantly better with about a month to go until the competition. I then began training to peak for the Games. I looked at my volume, intensity, the types of modalities I was training and shifted my focus to specific pre-competition variables. The last 10 days before I left for the Games I cut my volume and began my “peak”.

I went into the Games feeling fresh and ready. My mental game was a bit of a wreck as I was extremely nervous, but as I have coached several athletes to do so, I downloaded some Head Space and mental prep audio files. I got to the games and was amazed with the set up and the venue. I was excited and nervous but knew I was ready. I made game plans for each workout; I had practiced them all so I knew how I wanted to attack each one. At the end of the day, I beat all my practice times and even managed to PR my Jerk. I had a blast.

It was quite the experience for me to shift to competitor mode. But I listened to my own advice and it worked. I walked away from this experience with a greater understanding of what my athletes go through, and I think this will make me a better coach.

Learn to love big changes

When the idea of change comes up, people are typically in two camps. Either people love change,or they hate it.

I for one get excited about the prospect of change, but once the change occurs,I find myself a bit nervous,and an unpleasant transition period usually ensues. This is especially evident when someone moves cities and has to start over. They need to make new friends, get used to a new environment, and ultimately prove themselves to a new group of people.

This is the reality for young emerging athletes when leave home and move away to go play their sport at the collegiate level. Typically,the prospect of playing their sport at the next level is a dream come true,and they are very excited, but when the change actually occurs,it can be a trying time.

I remember leaving home for the first time;I moved from Medicine Hat all the way to Lennoxville, Que. I was fulfilling my dream of playing football at the collegiate level. I remember sitting down with my parents and explaining that I wanted to move to Quebec. Their reaction was one of initial hesitation, but ultimately,they were supportive.

So my Dad and I got on the plane and made the trek across the country. There was an immediate culture shock as I had never experienced theQuébécois culture. Nevertheless, my excitement continued as I registered for classes, moved all of my belongings into my dorm room, and met some of my new teammates.

Then it came time for my dad to leave. I remember standing outside of my residence building as he drove away. Tears welled up in my eyes,and the change became real. I wept for at least an hour that day. Keep in mind that these were the days before cell phones,and the only way to chat with my parents was to either call them long distance, which had an astronomical price tag,or to call them collect. This is what I did:I sat in a pay phone booth outside of my residence building once or twice a week and chatted with them.

Over time though, things got better. I met new friends, found a love for the Québécois culture, and excelled in the sport that I loved. I never look back at my experience playing football in Quebec and have an ounce of regret. Sure,it was a trying time, but I grew a lot as an athlete and overall as a person.

My reality back in 2002 is about to become a reality for a lot of local athletes who have recently graduated high school. Right now,there is a ton of excitement as some of the athletes have signed scholarships and are maybe moving a short distance or maybe even a long distance like I did. I want to encourage these athletes to stay the course. Even though it may be difficultinitiallymoving away from all that you have ever known, I can assure you that you will not regret it. You will grow immensely as an athlete and a person.

Catching up

Nate Stark, a former Alberta Sport Development Centre athlete here in Medicine Hat,moved away to play baseball at Colby College in Kansas last year. He stopped by my office the other day and told me about all that had happened since he left home. I could do nothing but smile as I saw the excitement in his eyes. He has grown so much as an athlete and as a person. We are so proud of him and all that he has done and accomplished!

Cory Coehoorn is the coordinator of the ASDC — Southeast at Medicine Hat College and would love to chat with you or anyone who knows an emerging athlete that could benefit from our services. The ASDC-SE offers services to emerging athletes regardless of their financial circumstances. He can be reached via phone at403-504-3547or via email at ccoehoorn@mhc.ab.ca.